Official website of MALACCA High School Old Pupils Association (MAHSOPA)
Wednesday, August 29, 2018
Alma mater, the nourishing mother
Tengku Permaisuri Selangor Tengku Permaisuri Norashikin (centre) looking on during the cheque presentation by Puteri president Mastura Mas'ud (right) to Sekolah Seri Puteri principal Roslina Ahmad at the Royal Gala Dinner to celebrate the school's 50th anniversary.
MY alma mater Sekolah Seri Puteri (SSP) celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, ending the year-long celebration with a gala night dinner last week. Graced by its royal patron Tengku Permaisuri Selangor Tengku Permaisuri Norashikin, the event saw the attendance of some 761 guests, of whom 106 were principals and teachers who had served at the school over the years.
Known as SMK Perempuan Jalan Kolam Ayer during its first 10 years, SSP is an all-girls boarding school named for its first location on a hill encircled by Sungai Batu in Kuala Lumpur. It took over the premises of a few buildings that survived World War 2, which were originally the Kuala Lumpur Technical Trade School, built in 1929 .
Its first principal, Adibah Amin, was given the responsibility of getting the school going. In 1968, the first batch of female students who came from all over the country enrolled at the school. A year later, Adibah left for the New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd. She was later awarded the Asian Journalist of the year in 1979 and the Tun Razak Prize in 1998 for her outstanding contribution to the development of education.
The growth of the school during its early years did not only take place at its location but also the surrounding area. I was among those who were in the school in the early 80s, witnessing the construction of Putra World Trade Centre that was later launched in 1985 by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the prime minister during that time. In 2003, the school moved to a new and bigger location in Cyberjaya.
The term alma mater however, is not of buildings or bricks and mortar but of people and relationships. This two-word Latin term when translated, literally means “nourishing mother”, representing the idea that schools play a special role in nurturing the development of their students — similar to the role of a parent, although not identical.
The word alumni, on the other hand, is first used to generally mean children abandoned by their parents and brought up by someone else.
What’s interesting is that both terms — alma mater and alumni — were linguistically connected
as they both derive from “alere”, a Latin term, which means nourish. Over time, both terms were used
to refer to an educational setting.
The emotive attachment to alma mater — pride, happiness, gratitude and nostalgia — are lifelong that usually grows on the students as they become older.
For a school to carry a “past” to “respect”, it is important to set the right tone for its future. What kind of tradition a new school wants is a vital question to set the foundation.
After attending the celebration at the SSP’s 10th speech day, Adibah, through her NST column, with the headline “My ‘baby’ is 10 years old today” wrote on
“the beginnings of a fine tradition”.
Pleased with how the school had turned out 10 years later, she pointed out, besides “impressive academic records and the promise of solid contributions in the future”, those who have left the school and graduated from universities, came back “giving tuition to their ‘adiks’ in the school for free, refusing to accept even petrol money”.
“Wanting to give back to the school” is also to become fully aware that a student does not achieve success on one’s own. The fact that one has been nurtured by so many, both intellectually and spiritually, gives rise to an obligation to nurture others.
School jubilees and centennials provide the perfect opportunity for reflecting on a school’s past and the successful students who have added to its reputation and history. The celebrations, usually organised by the alumni, can also be a magnet for present and past students.
But, a school’s alumni association is not only a forum for networking. For it to thrive and be effective, it needs a team of former students who is passionate about the school in relationship building and engagement.
The association can assist the school with opportunities to showcase the school and cooperate with projects and fundraising. Taking it further, its presence can serve to benefit the existing students, providing aspirations from the success of former students.
Today, 50 years on, SSP alumni (Puteri) does not only organise activities made up of the usual fundraising dinners and motivational talks. The Buddy Programme, for a start, is already into its second year, with hopes of becoming a social support system for current students to help, not only to improve soft skills, but also in stress management. A “foster parent” programme for alumni members to adopt students in the school who come from financially-challenged families called “Caring Hearts”, is also another initiative.
It is also Puteri’s hope to present a school bus as a gift for the school before the end of the year to commemorate its golden jubilee.
The golden jubilee celebrations for this year also saw a combined effort of not only the school
and Puteri, but also its parent-teacher association — another example of synergy towards excellence.
As a former student, I cannot deny the fact that my alma mater has shaped me into what I am today — from the teachers who have loved us like their own children to the schoolmates I call my sisters — they all have contributed to my learning and life
experience beyond what the academic lessons have done. And, not to forget the support staff who have provided services such as meals and beautiful grounds throughout my five years there.
Happy 50th Birthday SSP and here’s to many more years of excellence!
The writer, who is NSTP's education editor for English Content, was from Batch 1986 of Sekolah Seri Puteri